Dungen - 4
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While Tio Bitar saw Gustav Ejstes relinquishing some of Dungen's instrumental duties to other musicians, specifically guitarist Reine Fiske, 4 is the closest he's come to employing a full-time band. The frontman confines himself to the piano and microphone this time around, only taking occasional stabs at flute and violin, while bassist Mattias Gustavsson and drummer Johan Holmegard join Fiske in creating Dungen's sonic sprawl. As before, the band brews up a mix of psychedelic rock, free jazz, and other vintage genres associated with mind expansion and counterculture ideals. The folk influence that peppered earlier releases isn't as prominent here, though, with a new emphasis on piano taking its place. That instrument lends softer textures to several songs, especially when combined with washes of woodwinds and strings.
"Marleras Finest," in particular, mixes piano-fueled jazz with vintage elevator music, sounding like something that would've piped through the speakers of a 1960s dentist's office after a laughing gas leak. Elsewhere, the bandmates turn their amplifier knobs to the breaking point while pummeling through a series of improvised psych-rock freak-outs. "Samtidigt 1" is a freewheeling guitar showcase taken from a jam session -- it fades in and fades out, seemingly stretching on for hours on either side of the snippet -- and "Samtidigt 2" reprises the same approach several songs later. Holmegard fills his percussion with Mitch Mitchell-styled fills, and Fiske fills every inch of space with slashes and stabs of crunchy, distorted guitar, earning his keep as the band's second-in-command. There are well-crafted songs here, too: "Mina Damer Och Fasaner" begins like a Brill Building ballad before settling into a bassy groove, and "Det Tar Tid" showcase Ejstes' talent for stacked vocal harmonies. In short, 4 offers a cross-section of the band's catalog, mixing the structure-based songs of Tio Bitar with the instrumental workouts of albums like Ta Det Lugnt. Ejstes' fiddle playing is missed, but that's a minor complaint from an otherwise solid effort.